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Jason Boland expands on "The Bourbon Legend"

By Dan MacIntosh, December 2006

If Jason Boland is a new name to you, chances are another more prominent name and voice -Waylon Jennings - will come to mind when you first hear him sing. But Boland is a talented singer/songwriter, and The Stragglers' new "The Bourbon Legend" CD hints that he might also be a legend in the making..

"I get that a lot," says Boland of the Jennings comparison. "And rightfully so. I loved what Waylon Jennings did. But I really like a heavy backbeat, and I'm a baritone, and when you get that kind of bounce in the music, the words come out in that flowing, baritone timbre. But it's not even a comparison, it's just a compliment."

Talking about Jennings makes Boland a little sad. They just don't make 'em like Jennings anymore. Such conversation also causes him to wonder aloud if they'll eventually just put the few remaining true country singers - those stragglers, if you will - off in some museum.

"There'll always be a Branson," Boland quips lightheartedly. Has Boland ever played there? "No, not yet. Knock wood. I don't think I'd jinx myself by playing Branson this early in my career."

Boland is in a chipper mood, surprising when you consider that his band's equipment was just recently stolen. That's certainly not the way you want to start off the holiday season.

"They stole our trailer in Fort Worth," explains the Oklahoma native. "We were just coming off the road, and we were getting some people to the airport. We dropped the trailer at a strip mall there. And it got yanked that evening. They got away with just about everything, except some of our instruments."

These thieves even swiped toys intended for a Toys For Tots campaign. "They took the whole trailer, so I don't think it was a sting to get our toys," he clarifies.

It doesn't take much listening time to realize Boland's special. "The Bourbon Legend" CD (Sustain Records) opens with an amazing track titled "Last Country Song." On the surface, it appears to be about the passing of traditional country music. But Boland's thoughts run far deeper than that because its lyric delves into the passing of a way of life.
Well there goes another stand of trees
Another fishing tank
Burn down the family farm
Bought up by the bank

Whenever he writes and sings, Boland tries always to be authentic, just like his musical heroes.

"When you listen to a writer like Billy Joe Shaver, you never doubt his integrity on where he's coming with his songs," Boland notes. "You can hear every drop of whiskey that's ever hit those vocal cords."

"Last Country Song" is deep, but that doesn't mean Boland is not also upset over the endangerment of true country music.

"Art is supposed to represent its geography and its times and the politics its livin' in," Boland amplifies. "The country music I'm hearing on the radio today, the rural meaning of country must be dying. Because its music, its anthems, its soundtracks are dying. I don't hear 'em anymore. It's worse than pop music. It's trying to be pop music, and it's not."

If artists do not convince you that they believe in what they're writing and singing, they should not expect you to buy into their art. Boland's not convinced that many of today's artists - whether they are in or out of country - fully believe in what they're doing.

"Do The Wiggles really like those songs?" he asks. "Or are they just singing to a bunch of ritalin-ed up kids?" On a more serious note he adds, "Why would a 20-year-old college student buy a country record? He's getting a college education. It's staggering when you try and think about selling to that person. That's when I discovered Steve Earle, and that's when I got into Guy Clark."

Although Boland has the gift for turning a phrase, he knows that music also needs to tickle the ear as well as engage the mind.

"I don't see why it (the song) can't have a hook either," he says. "I think every song should have John Fogerty's guitar lick, Townes Van Zant meter and use of vocabulary and some Alabama - the band - chorus. When you listen to a song like 'The Bourbon Legend,' there are is a lot of innuendo and double meanings in there. But it's still a shit-kicking song."

Country music has lost its special place in peoples' hearts, according to Boland.

"When a band like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys came to town, that was it," says Boland. "That was the happening. If you weren't at it, everybody else was talking about it. The Baptists weren't at the dance, but they sure were talking about it."

Peter Anderson, the producer for "The Bourbon Legend," is most famous for his production work on Dwight Yoakam records.

"The best part of 2006, period, was working with Pete Anderson," Boland enthuses. "Other than the Dwight, I had only just heard Moot Davis, the guy he (Anderson) is working with now a lot. But, you know, the body of work he did with Dwight, I don't know why you would need to hear anything else. That was as good as country music has ever been done. Period."

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